Women’s right to vote: Marking 100 years

February the 6th 2018 marked 100 years since some women won the right to vote. I was fortunate to be asked to appear on BBC Breakfast to discuss young women’s participation in democracy and politics. I was privileged to be on a panel with amazing women each with an expertise on women’s voting and its history. I spoke about the contribution made by Asian suffragettes, an area which is still under researched and often overlooked in accounts of the suffrage movement.

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I was also honoured to be invited onto the prestigious BBC Woman’s Hour  for a discussion on modern day activism and 100 years on since some women first won the right to vote.  You can listen to my contribution to the programme below, click on the video!

Broadcast live from the Pankhurst Centre – the house in Manchester where leading suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst lived and campaigned, I spoke alongside eminent women; Gail Heath, Chief Executive of the Pankhurst Trust and suffrage historians Elizabeth Crawford and Diane Atkinson, and activist Caroline Criado Perez. The programme also included an interview with the Prime Minister Theresa May.  

Below are a few images of the historic day, one which I will remember fondly.

TimesUp on Bigotry and Hatred

On 21 January 2017, I spoke at the Women’s March on London. The anniversary is tomorrow and this year we at WML are saying #TimesUp on a gender pay gap, women’s inequality, discrimination, bigotry, all phobias, the policing of women’s bodies and what we wear, and a whole host of other issues. You can read our statement.

January 21 2017 was one of the best days of my life, never had I experienced so many people standing with me against all forms of discrimination. Below is the speech I gave, you can also watch my speech.

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“2016 was an awful year with the rise of dog whistle politics, xenophobic rhetoric and politicians and would be leaders who have rose to power on the back of the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim policies these same politicians exploited fears and stoked up divisions, in the name getting our country back.

We saw the very real and dangerous consequences of the mainstreaming of xenophobic rhetoric and far right sentiments, with the brutal murder of Jox Cox.
Joe Cox was murdered for her passion for an inclusive society, for her belief that we have more in common.

I’m a British born Muslim woman. growing up in the 80’s I saw my parents regularly attacked by the National Front because of the colour of their skin.
Now 30 years later we are living in a climate of fear, being a Muslim woman is very challenging.
We face multiple challenges and multiple prejudices, from structural discrimination to the fact that we more than likely to experience physical and verbal abuse on the street just because of who we are and how we dress.
As of yesterday we have a leader of the free world who questions our right to be treated as equal citizens, who wants to deny our basic freedoms and fundamental rights.
All minorities, including immigrants, Eastern Europeans, LGBTQ communities have all faced a backlash from this new nasty politics of fear
It would be too easy to only focus on the negative, to feel despair and hideaway but do not lose hope.
Remember that Women have a long history of being at the forefront of fighting for equality and justice – as we are the ones who suffer the worst consequences of irresponsible men in power. History shows us that Women have changed the world, from the suffragette movement to Rosa Parks heroic act – and we can do it again.
Women’s rights are human rights – let’s unite across boundaries of faith, ethnicity, gender and sexuality – for equality and justice for all, in ways that are so powerful, that we will tear down the walls of division that are being built by those who seek to divide us.
We will not let bigotry and hatred overcome us.

This new era of world politics is an opportunity for us to come together not in protest, but in celebration of the strength that our diversity gives us and stand united for justice, equality and peace.”

Akeela Ahmed named one of Stylist’s Women of the Year 2017: The activist who helped organise the Women’s March On London

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Image Credit: Stylist Magazine

So this week I was named one of Stylist magazine’s Women of the Year 2017. I still can’t quite believe it. I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, love and uplifting messages received from friends and colleagues 💕 following the feature.

Being involved with, and speaking at the Women’s March London was incredible for so many reasons but it is only now that I reflect some 11 months later, that I understand just how deeply impactful it was for me – for the first time in my life I had been supported to stand up and speak against all the various injustices facing women today – in my own words and on my own terms. And on a huge platform to thousands of people, from all walks of life. That was, and still is today immensely empowering and transformative. For having created this space of solidarity, I have much love for all the amazing women involved in organising WML, who are and were so open and trusting.

With the feature in Stylist, I had the opportunity to speak again, freely without fear and without someone else’s agenda being imposed upon me. I hope the piece goes some way to progress the narratives and perceptions of Muslim women. Kudos to Stylist who featured not just me but two other inspirational Muslim Women. We really are better when we #StandTogether

Image credit: Stylist Magazine

Presentation on Far Right

akeela imams online conference

Earlier this year, I presented at the Imam’s online conference held at Google offices in London. I was glad that I had the opportunity to discuss the increase in Far Right extremism and anti-Muslim hatred.  You can click on the link below to read the presentation. If you will be using any of the information contained the presentation, then I ask that you credit myself by linking to this page.

Presentation of Far Right PDF

Speech given at Women’s March on London

On 21st January 2017 I opened the Women’s March on London with a speech about global political challenges and the power women in unifying humanity and to bring about change. This was the first time that I had spoken to such a large crowd – the Met Police estimated around one hundred thousand people marched that day.

Sorry it has taken me a while to post this up, I know some of you wanted access to the speech. Also this is the raw draft that I used to speak from on the day, so it is not written as an article.

“2016 was an awful year with the rise of dog whistle politics, xenophobic rhetoric and politicians and would be leaders who have rose to power on the back of the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim policies.

These same politicians exploited fears and stoked up divisions, in the name getting our country back.

We saw the very real and  dangerous  consequences of the mainstreaming of  xenophobic rhetoric and far right sentiments, with  the brutal murder of Jox Cox. Joe Cox was murdered for her passion for an inclusive society, for her belief that we have more in common.

I’m a British born Muslim woman. growing up in the 80’s I saw my parents regularly attacked by the National Front because of the colour of their skin. Now 30 years later we are living in a climate of fear, being a Muslim woman is very challenging. We (Muslim women) face multiple challenges and multiple prejudices, from structural discrimination to the fact that we more than likely to experience physical and verbal abuse on the street just because of who we are and how we dress.

As of yesterday (20/01/2017) we have a leader of the free world who questions our right to be treated as equal citizens, who wants to deny our basic freedoms and fundamental rights. All minorities, including  immigrants, Eastern Europeans, LGBTQ communities have all faced a backlash from this new nasty politics of fear.

It would be too easy to only focus on the negative, to feel despair and hideaway but do not lose hope. Remember that Women have a long history of being at the forefront of fighting for equality and justice – as we are the ones who suffer the worst consequences of irresponsible men in power. History shows us that Women have changed the world, from the suffragette movement to Rosa Parks heroic act – and we can do it again. Women’s rights are human rights – let’s unite across boundaries of faith, ethnicity, gender and sexuality – for equality and justice for all, in ways that are so powerful, that we will tear down the walls of division that are being built by those who seek to divide us.

We will not let bigotry and hatred overcome us.

This new era of world politics is an opportunity for us to come together not in protest, but in celebration of the strength that our diversity gives us and stand united for justice, equality and peace.”

 

Open Call for Submissions from Muslim Writers

Like so many of you, we are gravely alarmed by the present administration’s recent broad ban on refugees and immigrants from Muslim countries. Our hearts ache for the innocent people affected…

Source: Open Call for Submissions from Muslim Writers

The real dangers of banning the burkini

During the French burkini controversy, I was asked by Mashable to give my thoughts on the dangers of banning the burkini. You can read my comments below and/or the full article here.

“These women are not a security threat, they’re just average French Muslim women,” Akeela Ahmed, a London-based equalities campaigner, said. “They’re penalising French Muslim women for the actions of terrorists. They either go to the beach and not swim or remain isolated in their communities at home.”

 

“Feminists need to get on board with the fact that Muslim women and what they decide to wear is a feminist issue. They should have the freedom to wear what they choose and feminists should call for equality for Muslim women,”

Tackling Ramadan With A Mental Health Condition

I just noticed that I was quoted in the article below, on surviving Ramadan with an eating disorder.

http://www.refinery29.uk/2016/06/114217/ramadan-mental-health

Here is my quote:

“There is still a huge stigma attached to mental illness, along with a lack of understanding of how it manifests and impacts on an individual,” says Akeela Ahmed, the former Executive Director of the Muslim Youth Helpline and campaigner on youth and gender issues. “So often friends and families can expect someone with poor mental health to fast. Most of the people I’ve worked with, who are dealing with mental health issues, feel guilty if they do not fast.”

According to Ahmed, the stigmas associated with mental illnesses in Muslim communities also means that those like Sofia are sometimes left in the dark when it comes to reconciling their conditions and their religious belief. “What I found when I was working with people who had eating disorders was that it wasn’t treated like other physical illnesses” she says. “If you’re physically unwell, then you don’t fast – but those who were dealing with mental illnesses would adjust their schedules to take their medication as part of their suhoor (morning meal) or when they broke their fasts.”

“From my experience, most Muslim people with mental health challenges receive very little support from either within their community or from mainstream agencies” she adds. “There needs to be more work done to tackle the taboo surrounding mental health issues and raise awareness about how to manage it.”

What 14 British Muslims think about the Charlie Hebdo attack

A few days ago I spoke to BuzzFeed about my reaction to the horrendous attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

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This is what I wrote:

“As a British Muslim I have been shocked and dismayed by the Charlie Hebdo attacks. This shock has reverberated throughout communities in the UK, and with it comes a sense of dread of what is to come in the aftermath. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. But I am also fearful that these attacks will fuel anti-Muslim sentiments and hatred. I pray and hope, that we will stand united against violence and hatred.”

http://www.buzzfeed.com/hkesvani/13-british-muslims-on-what-they-think-about-the-ch-ne8u#.voQ4AM5mj

Talking about IS and appealing for the release of Alan Henning

Recent Media Appearances

 

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Last week I signed a letter calling for the release of British hostage Alan Henning. I signed the letter foremostly as a human being, wanting to do something, no matter how small or insignificant to try and help Alan. I have no delusions that #IS would care about what a bunch of British Muslims had to say, but still it worth a shot.

As I can explain in various media appearances, I also signed the letter because I wanted to make it absolutely clear to others that the majority of British Muslims, in no shape or form, support or sympathise with the actions of IS.

Here are the media appearances:

  1. Today programme on BBC Radio 4: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04gwchh (listen from approximately 2 hours, 16 minutes).
  2. BBC World Service: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p026g1gf (listen from approximately 26 minutes in).
  3. BBC Radio 5 Live: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04h7kh5 (listen from approximately 15 minutes in).
  4. BBC Radio London 94.9: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0262s6h (listen from approximately 15 minutes in).
  5. Channel 5 news: Akeela Ahmed: What IS is doing is not in the Isla…: http://youtu.be/ErWa7gf4IfU
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